Thimble Pros features the voices of rock-star small businesses. In this post, Mike Mireles, owner and founder of So Cal DJ Pros, discusses his journey to finding his niche as a wedding DJ and MC, plus his tips for being authentic on social media.
When I started my wedding DJ business in 2004, I booked fewer than 20 weddings per year. Now I book 60 weddings per calendar year in Southern California, with gigs in Los Angeles County, Orange County, and the Inland Empire Counties.
In my nearly two decades owning So Cal DJ Pros, I’ve gone from being a scrappy entrepreneur to scaling rapidly and finding my niche. I’ll share what I have learned about winning clients through social media, staying ahead of trends, and collaborating with other creators.
From backyard boogie to wedding DJ
I began DJing in my sophomore year of high school. My first real event was a backyard wedding. After the party ended, the couple gave me a warm hug and thanked me for making their special day memorable — and asked me for my card so they could refer me to their friends. All I had at the time was my phone number and a Blogspot page. That was one of the turning points that took me from being an amateur to marketing myself as a professional wedding DJ.
It’s not easy to stand out in a saturated market. One of the most important things I did was to narrow down my specialty. At first, I tried to be a one-stop-shop wedding entertainment business offering music, lighting, and other services. I kept swiping my credit card on new and large purchases. All of these offerings would eventually take a toll on my well-being, and I wasn’t able to do it all alone. Now, in addition to being a DJ and MC, I provide specialty lighting design and I am a licensed wedding officiant. After nearly burning out, going back to my DJ roots helped me hone my craft.
Pivoting to social media during the pandemic
The second time I had to adapt my business was in March 2020. I was out of work until June due to the lockdown and shutdowns — but I didn’t stop working. I continued to communicate with potential clients every day on social media. I posted blogs and engaged with trending hashtags that were relevant to the wedding industry, such as #LoveisNotCancelled, and small business campaigns like #WeAreStillOpen. I also joined an online support group with thousands of COVID couples. I offered a friendly ear and my professional advice, wherever they were, and I also helped connect them with venues, vendors, and planned COVID-safe alternatives like elopements and micro-weddings.
However, there was a learning curve to social media. I realized that you can’t post just to post. You can’t add low-quality photos or videos to Instagram or your website, because it’s not about the number of times you post, but the quality. You must keep your social media image true to who you are. If you’re a DJ, share action shots like the couple’s first dance. Captivating hashtags are equally as important. For example, if you use a trending hashtag like #WeddingMoments, you’re likely to get more engagement.
I like to use Instagram Stories to show a day in the life of a wedding DJ. I start with a video of the early morning when I pick up my equipment and gear. Then I post when I get to the venue, showing a 360-degree panorama of what I’m seeing. I describe how we test our sound and lighting systems. Then I show the actual party with people dancing and having fun. Clarity is 100% of the game. Make sure that you have a unique aesthetic and that you’re speaking to your audience.
Another social media tip is to collaborate with other businesses, including wedding photographers. I always ask if I can share some of the media they’ve captured in exchange for tagging them in my posts. If you collaborate, you will widen your audience, create more interesting content, and build good relationships with people you work with often. Always make sure to ask permission before posting anothers’ content (they’ll usually say “yes.”)
Be as personal as a playlist
My actions prove that I’m not a ‘bot’ behind Instagram. I find ways to show that I’m thinking about my couples, whether it’s customizing the song for their first dance, extending their photo booth services by an hour, or simply talking to them about their inspiration or concerns. If your couples leave good reviews and promote you through word of mouth, you will generate more leads. And importantly, you’ll build long-lasting friendships and relationships.
I also stay fresh by offering things that few other DJs have in their arsenal. I attend live industry seminars and conventions to learn cutting-edge lighting and sound equipment, which puts me one step above the competition. I’ll network with lighting and sound production companies to learn what’s new and next (I was an early adopter of the “sparkular” machine, which safely produces a shower of non-pyrotechnic, non-toxic golden sparks without smoke).
But the greatest key to my success is compassion. If you’re an event professional who wants to scale your business, stay human. Carve out time for yourself, your health, and your relationships. One of the beautiful things about owning your own business is that you can create a life where you get to do all of these things on your own schedule.
Follow Mike on Instagram @socaldjpros